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The Last Out of Saigon

The Mob moving to Robbins was a catastrophe for many of us.

I was in the Operations Section. Radio Operators and Teletype Operators. At one time there were over 50 of us and most of us, even our lieutenant, were married to Filipinas. We didn't want to leave the Mob but because of our close ties to the Philippines through marriage, we didn't have much choice. We were transferred, almost en masse, to the 1961st Comm Group. The 1961st Comm Group, you'll remember, was the communications outfit stationed at Clark. I had served in the 1961st before in 1957-1960.

A few radio operators were assigned to the Nightwatch Station and the Teletype Operators and Maintenance people went to the Communications Center along with the Crypto and Crypto maintenance people. . My good friend SSgt Pappas went to Moccasin, the PACAF Commander's Net.

Those of us they couldn't find a slot for were left in the old 1st Mob Building, where we had worked so hard for the last four years. We were formed into something named the "Mobility Training" section. MSgt Norman Decker was appointed as our NCOIC. I don't remember having an OIC, at least not in the same building and none of us really ever felt we were part of the 1961st Comm Group.

It was reasoned, by the powers that be, that the 1961st Comm Group would assume the TDY duties of the 1st Mob, so we were tasked with preparing a 40 hour training schedule to teach selected 1961st personnel what to do when TDY.

We set up "How to" classes. "How to erect a G. P. Medium tent." "How to protect oneself from poisonous bugs and animals." Etc: Etc.

But after months of running training classes we still had not participated in even one TDY. We had been alerted for two I think, but the Air Force had found other ways of filling their mobile communications requirements. When the occasional TDY did come along, the former 1st Mobber's were the one's usually dispatched to do the job.

The Evacuation of Saigon in '75 was a case in point. That team consisted of M/Sgt. Scott, S/Sgt. Pappas S/Sgt. Blyler and myself. Blyler was the only one who was not a former 1st Mobber.

The problems in Vietnam were escalating and people started fleeing, withdrawing to the South. When they decided to start Operation Babylift, which was the evacuation of Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American orphans, a TDY opportunity opened up.

The project was to send a team to run Commo for the baby-lift and as an added duty maintain a ship-to-shore circuit for the ships that were picking up refugee's all along the coast and funneling them south.

MSgt Benjamin Scott was appointed Team Leader. He was one of the 1st Mob transferee's and had been briefly involved in Operation Homecoming too. (POW Release)

He selected me and told me to choose two more people for the team. I chose SSgt George Pappas and Sgt. Jack Kennedy. All of us were 1st Mob transferees and all of us had been on other TDYs together and already knew how to work together.

Shortly before leaving for Saigon, "they" told us to replace at least one team member. "They" said the replacement would come from the1961st Comm Group. "They" apparently did not want a full team of ex-Mobsters without any 1961st people. We reluctantly dropped Sgt. Kennedy and replaced him with SSgt. Steven Blyler, who had no experience with the MRC-108 or the KWM-2A. We had no time familiarize him with the equipment before we left. He really tried hard to fit in though.

We arrived in Saigon on the 30th of March 1975. After Operation Babylift ended and the evacuation turned into chaos, we inherited the job of maintaining a ship to shore circuit for the future Commanding General of the Marine Corps Detachment. BG Carey, I believe was his name.

The Marines flew in and secured the old MACV compound, where we were located. We worked for him until the end and then started evacuating the compound slowly, one at a time.

MSgt Scott left first, followed a few hours later by SSgt Pappas. SSgt Blyler and I were ready to leave when we were asked to stay and man the equipment because the circuit was still in great demand.

The man actually said to me, "Gunny, I love my men but you have to understand they are just Marines, they can't operate your equipment." Which of course was a bald faced untruth but still, very appealing.

I stayed, Blyler too. We finally were allowed to leave on one of the last choppers out of that compound.

We flew to the USS Okinawa, a mini-carrier. The next day we transferred to the USS Blue Ridge, the Communications Ship for the 7th Fleet. There we remained for a week, while the ship steamed up and down the Vietnam coast picking up refugees.

That was the last TDY I had while in the Philippines.

- Tony Kristol

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